West New York woman unlikely face of colon cancer

“I just heard the word cancer and it changed my life forever,” says Nicole Soto, 22, of West New York.

She was only 17 when she got the call from her doctor. She knew something was wrong because she used to have pain all the time when she ate.

“I was forced to take a role of being an adult,” Soto says, adding, she wasn’t ready.

Everyone thinks colon cancer is an old person’s disease.

“But more and more I’m seeing young people get affected by colon cancer, like me,” Soto says.

According to the National Cancer Institute, colon cancer cases are rising among young adults due to physical inactivity, obesity, smoking and consumption of red and processed meat.

Nicole hid being sick for a long time.

“I didn’t want people to know,” says the New Jersey City University nutrition student. “I didn’t want people to feel bad for me.

“When you hear cancer, you hear, ‘oh my G-d, this person is going to die.’ That is not the way I wanted people to see me.”

Nicole has never given up.

“She’s very brave, very determined to beat this disease and we are supporting her on her way,” (with the latest, cutting-edge therapies) says Dr. Martin Gutierrez, director of drug discovery, gastro/thoracic oncology at Hackensack University Medical Center.

“It’s a combination of a challenge and rewarding,” Gutierrez says. “We have done very well for the last several years and we keep fighting.”

Nicole says she left it untreated for about a year.

“I just want people to voice out what they feel in their body,” Soto says. “Because when something’s not right, it’s not right.”

Cancer is not her identity.

“I do my makeup, I do my hair, I have wig pieces, I have wigs,” Soto says. “You know, I don’t let it faze me.”

“It’s something that will never take away… this Nicole,” Soto says.

Nurse Beatriz Diaz really admires Nicole’s strength.

“She’s just always in the mood to battle this and get it over with and do what she needs to do,” says Diaz, of John Theurer Cancer Center at Palisades Medical Center.

The journey’s been a long one.

“Every time that we do surgery and we take something out it’s like, ‘let’s do chemo again.’ And it’s like, ‘okay, another six months of intensive treatment,’” Soto says.

“It feels like I just keep relapsing and it feels like it doesn’t stop.”

Nicole is an inspiration to everyone she meets.

“She’s just such a pleasure to take care of,” says Jo Ann Simon, a nurse practitioner at JTCC. “She has a wonderful attitude; she never gets down and she just shows tremendous strength and acceptance.”

According to Soto, at times her focus has been on things other than her health.

“Now I’m putting 100 percent in everything I do because I wanna be here for a long time,” the 22-year-old says.

“You just gotta appreciate everybody that’s around you and don’t take a minute for granted.”

About The Author

Jillian has a passion for news, giving voice to the voiceless and telling stories that make an impact. A New Jersey native, she spent the past two years as a multimedia journalist/one-man-band at WTAP-TV, the NBC affiliate in Parkersburg, West Virginia, where she covered everything from meth busts to fracking to the homeless to a young man struck by lightening. She was her news director’s “go to health reporter” and also covered many education and political stories. She frequently interviewed the mayors of Parkersburg, Vienna and Williamstown, WV and Belpre and Marietta, Ohio. She interviewed OH Gubernatorial Candidate Ed Fitzgerald and OH Congressional Candidate Jennifer Garrison, as well as WV Governor Earl Ray Tomblin and WV Senator Joe Manchin. Jillian was a regular fixture at the local police, sheriff’s departments, prosecutors’ offices and courthouses. Many looked forward to her ‘Mom of the Month’ series. Her story about two women who lost their children to heroin was widely recognized, along with her much loved piece on the Battle Against Cystic Fibrosis band camp. In her free time, Jillian enjoys yoga; working out, live music, spending time with friends on both coasts and the Mid-Ohio Valley. Follow on Twitter @JillianRis

9 Comments

  1. Jessica

    Although cancer has been a part of NICOLE’s life it cannot cripple LOVE. It cannot shatter HOPE.. It cannot corrode FAITH … It cannot destroy PEACE…It cannot kill FRIENDSHIP….It cannot suppress MEMORIES… It cannot silence COURAGE….It cannot invade the SOUL… It cannot steal eternal LIFE … It cannot conquer the SPIRIT.
    You’re a born a fighter Nicole… Keep your faith strong and know that in Memorial High School you have unconditional love and support.

    Reply

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